Thoughts on the Rose Committee’s Interim Report

“BRANDEIS IS NOT CLOSING THE ROSE AND SELLING ALL THE ARTWORK.” Words and italics from them, bold and caps from yours truly.  If you’re going to take anything from the interim report of the Future of the Rose Committee, make it that.  We’ve sat and listened as the Rose first was closed, then open for the semester, then for part of the summer, then the whole summer, then open indefinitely.  Finally, we have an absolutely definitive statement from a body that’s spent lots of time researching this very issue that the Rose is not going anywhere, and, in fact, that we’re bound by donor agreements to keep the Rose Art Museum open by that very name.

The report, which was released to the entire Brandeis community last Thursday, is just a preliminary document detailing the progress the committee has made towards compiling its final report, which will be released in early fall.  I recommend reading the whole thing, as there’s a lot to chew over (everyone with a Brandeis e-mail address should have received it on Thursday; if you didn’t get it/already deleted it, we’ll have it uploaded as soon as I can figure out how to use our media library you can find it here in PDF form).  The following are just some quick thoughts on points I found particularly important:

  • Legally, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t continue to operate a public museum even after sales of art work.  Why was there so much misinformation about this?  Why did I hear so often that keeping the Rose open was impossible if we sold even part of the collection?  Why didn’t the University immediately correct these statements?  They must have done some research into the legal issues involved, right?  It’s a testament to utter failure of the message control over the Rose that not only was our course of action completely incorrect as initially announced, but that we couldn’t even get simple, critical facts like this correct.
  • That being said, selling art for any reason other than to purchase other art is a huge taboo in the museum and art communities.  Of course, we already knew this.  However, now that we have clarified that the Rose itself isn’t going anywhere, it’s time for the art world to meet Brandeis halfway here.  Our message now is actually refreshingly frank and fair.  The facts are simple: the University as a whole is more important than the Rose; if the University fails, the Rose goes down with it; we are doing everything we possibly can to avoid selling any artwork; but if worst comes to worst, we will do as we must to maintain the Brandeis we know and love.  If the members of art community tries to dispute any of this, they are leaving their area of expertise, which is art, and trying to outdo university administrators at university administration.  If they instead approach us as allies with a vested interest in how we survive our time of crisis, we can come together to find the least damaging and most acceptable solution, and the lessons we learn and the bonds we form will keep a situation like this from ever occurring again.  Until the dogma of “art sales are bad, period” is abandoned, we are losing our only chance to make the best of this situation.
  • The Future of the Rose Committee is remaining neutral on the core matter of selling art to raise funds, and I couldn’t applaud them any more for it.  Their stance will disappoint some people.  However, they are not avoiding this important debate; they are merely ensuring that it occurs in its proper setting, among the entire Brandeis community.  By ceding the chance to become partisans with the platform they were given, they are strengthening their position as unbiased researchers,  and the debate which will occur will be more informed for it.

Overall, the report is a great summary of what we know so far, and it will be a valuable tool to counter the negative propaganda which is still hounding us.  My personal thumbs up goes out to the Committee, and I look forward to reading the final report.